God Will Come

Blade Runner (Theaters-1982; DVD-2001) Rated: R — Runtime: 117 minutesM Blade 1982

Blade Runner 2049 (Theaters-October 2017; Streaming-January 2018) Rated: R — Runtime: 163 minutes

Genre: Action-Drama-Mystery-Science Fiction-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.0/10 (1982); 7.5/10 (2017)

IMDb – 8.2/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017)

Amazon – 4.3/5 stars (1982); 3.6/10 (2017)

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.5/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017);

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.0/10 (1982); 4.1/5 (2017)

Metacritic Metascore – 89/100 (1982); 81/100 (2017)

Metacritic User Score – 8.8/10 (1982); 8.2/10 (2017)

Directed by: Ridley Scott (1982); Denis Villeneuve (2017)

Written by: Hampton Fancher and David Peoples (1982); Hampton Fancher and Michael Green (2017); Movies Based on the 1968 Story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Music by: Vangelis (1982); Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch (2017)

M Blade 2017Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young (1982); Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas (2017)

Film Locations: Burbank–Los Angeles, US; London–Surrey, England (1982): Budapest–Etyek–Hungary; Iceland; Mexico; Almería–Andalucía–El Ejido–Sevilla, Spain; Nevada, US (2017)

Budget: $28,000,000 (1982); $185,000,000 (2017)

Worldwide Box Office: $33,139,618 (1982); $258,978,008 (2017)

In a not too distant dystopian future, replicants, or bio-engineered humans are created to perform tasks humans can’t or won’t do.  Due to their greater than human physical attributes they are relegated to planets beyond  Earth, kept as slaves and forever banned from humanity’s home planet.  The replicants, in case they escape their captivity, are created with built-in fail-safes; a four-year life span and sterility.  Blade Runners (Harrison and Gosling) are bounty hunters hired to retire, kill, fugitive replicants. In the first Blade Runner movie Ford hunts down replicants that want to live beyond their 4 years of existence. In the second Blade Runner, Gosling, a replicant himself and a Blade Runner, a rather bizarre twist causing serious cognitive disconnects, searches for the replicant miracle: the spawn of a replicant, reminiscent of the 1993 Jurassic Park fail-safe: the all-female dinosaurs couldn’t reproduce but they found a way.

Philip K. Dick in his 1968 book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, explores the meaning of human life. What distinguishes humans from replicants or any sentient life?  These two movies follow a similar path as the book, a similar plot but eventually go deeper; delving into man’s ability to create life, to control life, to supplant God. If creation is the mark of God does man reach godhead by creating a likeness of himself?  What are man’s responsibilities as a creator; what are his duties to his children?

In a symbolic scene from the first movie, Roy (Hauer), leader of the renegade replicants, is reaching his pre-programmed death as he pursues Deckard (Harrison) for destroying his vision of salvation from the fail-safe. As his death advances he loses control of his hand muscles and to stave off the inevitable he pushes a square nail through his palm and out the other side to stabilize the involuntary contractions. A painful suffering from, or possibly for, his creators’ designs. Roy finally reaches Deckard who is slowly slipping from the roof of an apartment building.  As Deckard’s grip gives way, Roy clasps his wrist and pulls him to safety; the hunted saving the hunter. As the two sit on the roof and face each other, Roy’s life slowly leaves him as he recites his eulogy:

“…All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

The creation dies having shown mercy and empathy.

The second movie explores the miracle of birth that couldn’t happen.  A birth from the womb of a replicant, a birth of a detached and lonely creature, but a true gift to humanity.  A child that transcends our being by giving us our memories.  Memories that make us whole and real: human.  A child burning bright, leaving a future by leaving a past, but denied progeny.  She is Asimov’s 1951 Foundation Mule; a conqueror and a giver, but sterile.

These are movies examining the meaning of God, what it is to be God. An examination of the burdens of God. An investigation into what it means to strive towards godhead. An investigation of paths taken and not taken.  An inquiry into our will to die for our creations or to live with them. Will God come when we become gods?

All Chan, All Good

The Foreigner (Theaters-September 2017; Streaming-January 2018) Rated: R  Runtime: M Foreigner 2017113-114 minutes

Genre: Action-Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 7.1/10

Amazon – 4.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 55/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.1/10

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Written by: David Marconi (screenplay), Stephan Leather (novel)

Music by: Cliff Martinez

Cast: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Film Locations:  London, England; Larne, Northern Ireland

Budget: $35,000,000

Worldwide Box Office: $140,793,485

Quan (Chan), a widower, lives a quiet London life, looking after his only daughter and his restaurant, his only major concerns are the boys chasing after his beloved teenaged girl.  Then a new IRA faction blows up a bank, killing his little girl, who was shopping at a dress shop adjacent to the bank, and Quan’s life and priorities change. He wants to know who killed his daughter, who was responsible.  He wants justice.  When the officials are unable to give him any names or promise any arrests, soon, he organizes his vigilante squad of one and slowly narrows down the possibilities; Jackie Chan style, but without malice for dogs or the innocent.

Jackie Chan steps past his normal fun side, giving the audience a taste of his drama and emotional acting abilities, and proves that his serious character portrayals are real, believable and effective.  Not since his role as a morose handyman in the 2010 Karate Kid have I seen him in such a convincing dramatic role, but this time the screenplay (Marconi) and supporting actors are not relegating him to a least common denominator of mediocrity and cheesiness.  The screenplay flows well, it’s coherent, and has enough twists to keep you guessing, but it does have a flaw, and unfortunately its a big one. Brosnan’s Liam Hennessy role is muddled, his level of involvement and guilt in the IRA bombing is never completely resolved. Maybe it’s intentional but it adds clutter to the plot and its conclusion. That aside, this is a typical Martin Campbell film, full of action, intrigue and entertainment, always spot on and fun; ok, maybe the Green Hornet was a dud, but usually his films are a must see, as is this one.

This was a fun action-drama to watch.  Jackie Chan displays what made him famous, his martial arts moves, but in the film he also displays his serious side and lets us know that, yes, he can play that part.

Chillin’ Back to the Future

Baby Driver (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 112 minutesM Baby 2017

Genre:  Action-Crime-Music-Suspense-Thriller

els – 8.5/10

IMDb – 7.0/10

Amazon – 3.9/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 8.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 86/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10

Directed by:  Edgar Wright

Written by:  Edgar Wright

Music by:  Stephen Price

Cast:   Ansel Elgort, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Lily James

Film Locations:   Atlanta, Dunwoody and Gainesville, Georgia, New Orleans, Louisiana, US

Budget:   $34,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $228,311,809

Baby (Elgort) is a getaway driver, choreographing his high RPM street racing to the music pumping through his ear buds, playing catch me if you can with a no sweat demeanor that has you cheering for him non-stop.  Baby works for Doc (Spacey), a criminal mastermind that plans all his heists in chalk-board detail, never using the same group of robbers twice, except for Baby.  Baby is exceptional. Spacey catches Baby, how that happens is somewhat implausible since no one every catches Baby, trying to rob him and forces him to drive his den of thieves away from their crime scenes as retribution.

I’m late to this movie so I will give my due respect to the principles and then move on to what makes this movie so special: script and score–together.  Edgar Wright has put together a story that doesn’t come along too often, a story that has is all, action, comedy, crime, love, suspense–it has everything that you and I watch movies for. He brings it all together with a coherent and convincing screenplay, tight directing, precision choreographed cinematography (Bill Pope), and acting that is just perfect. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have Elgort, Foxx, Hamm, and Spacey providing believable and real characters along with the very pretty James. Throw in some subtle paeans to the past, such as Back to the Future, and you have a simply stunning movie, a true masterpiece; the bits and pieces adding up to a fulfillment of a lost cinematic ideal: pure, unadulterated entertainment.

Then Wright brings forth the melody.  A melody that matches and honors the lyrics: the screenplay. Lyrical poetry, accordant with the harmonic notes performing a dance of rockin’, rollin’, tango action.  Not since the 1983 Big Chill has Hollywood scored music so perfectly with the movie.

The Big Chill brought together children of the 1960s, audience and actors alike, in a comedic drama about trying to find meaning in a modern world after their fling with anarchy and drugs.  They found no meaning.  The point of the 60s was that there was no point.  But the 60’s music was sublime and transcendent. The music in The Big Chill, complimented the story as if they were fraternal twins, different veins but the same beat. Bringing together the rockin’ soul of the era with the burn-it-down pathos of its youth.  Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, black soul groovin’ the white bourgeoisie who thought they were the proletariat.  A movie, and an era, of no meaning, expressing itself with music that meant everything, and the two together brought soothing cover and entertainment.

Baby Driver just brings entertainment, no-guilt-pleasure, meshing the visual with the phonic.  It brings in The Big Chill‘s soul sound with the likes of Carla Thomas, Sam and Dave, and Barry White; and then branches out to include the  old-time rockers of Queen, T. Rex (Marc Bolan’s son sued the movie for using Debora without permission), and Golden Earring; progressing up the time scale with blues-rocker Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and alternate-stuff Beck; capping it off with the synth-pop of Sky Ferreira. A great collection of musicians that compliments the movies action, creating a greater artistic experience than the two alone could achieve. Jon Spencer’s Bellbottoms in the opening car chase scene sets the throbbing standard for the movie that doesn’t abate until the ending credits roll, accompanied by the Simon and Garfunkel song: Baby Driver.

Sony and Edgar Wright have agreed to a sequel, hopefully in 2019.  May the magic strike twice.

Raw Infamy

Last Rampage (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 92-93 minutesM Rampage 2017

Genre:  Crime-Drama-Mystery-Thriller

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 49/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Dwight H. Little

Written by:   James W. Clarke (book), Alvaro Rodríguez (screenplay)

Music by:  Tobias Enhus, Richard Patrick

Cast:   Robert Patrick, Heather Graham, Bruce Davison, Chris Browning

Film Locations:   Club Ed Film Set – 150th Street E, Lancaster, California, US

Budget:   NA

Worldwide Box Office:  $6,294

This is a true tale, lifted from the pages of James W. Clarke’s 1999 book: Last Rampage: The Escape of Gary Tison. It’s a story of the gruesome, murderous crimes committed by a pair of maniacal felons following their escape from prison. The movie portrays sociopaths Gary Tison (Patrick) and Randy Greenawalt (Browning) in their twisted, bloody run from the state police and justice, through the barren, dry hills of Arizona.

Gary Tison, a hypnotic, Charles Manson like figure, begins his criminal life as a petty thief but quickly escalates to a major felon by taking the life of a prison guard. Greenawalt, a thoroughly remorseless and creepy individual, executes two truck drivers while they sleep, and is a suspect in several similar murders. Both men are serving life for their homicides. Miraculously the two get themselves transferred, for “excellent behavior”, to a low-security jail on the outskirts of Florence, Arizona where, with the help of Tison’s 3 matriarchally, brainwashed and programed young sons, plan their escape. The boys casually waltz into the prison on visitor’s day, whip out their guns, demand the release of Tison and Greenawalt and the 5 of them drive off into the dusty Arizona countryside, somehow staying one step ahead of the law. Death of the innocent and innocence follows Tison and Greenawalt in their lurching, chaotic escape to Mexico. For 10 days, killing grounds are everywhere and anywhere they meet the unwary and the innocent. For 10 days, the young boys’ probity, their innocence, slowly drains away to the horror that is their father.

Last Rampage, a gritty, no frills look at two demented beings, is structured by Dwight H. Little, the director, to exhibit the criminal monsters in a sharp, glaring  light of fact; a truth that is hideous and raw. A hard white light flooding the scene with no sympathy, no quarter, just evil shown as it is: evil.  A true tour de force in the crime genre with the exception that the opening scene was pointless.

The acting is superb, although Robert Patrick may carry his role as hell’s spawn with him longer than he may wish. Patrick and Browning’s sociopathic characters are displayed with an authoritative, emotionless, punch-to-the-gut performance, inciting the viewer to casually, almost clinically, conclude that death would be good for these two.

Art Imitates Life

American Made (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2018)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minutesM American Made 2017

Genre:  Action-Adventure-Biography-Comedy-Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 7.2/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 65/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.8/10

Directed by:  Doug Liman

Written by:   Gary Spinelli

Music by:  Christophe Beck

Cast:   Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Film Locations:   Atlanta, Ball Ground and Madison, Georgia, US; New Orleans, US; Araracuara, Caqueta and Medellin, Columbia

Budget:   $50,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $135,581,390

Barry Seal (Cruise) is a hustler, a con, a drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering, CIA operative; a Medellin Cartel useful stooge, and all around terrific husband and father who will not let anything get between him and an illicit mountain of cash. Seal is a TWA pilot who can’t make ends meet or fulfill his adrenaline needs, so he turns to flying drugs from South American to supplement his legitimate wages and feed his risk cravings.  He soon attracts the attention of the CIA who need a gofer to conduct business between the agency and Panama’s Noriega. This leads to running CIA supplied guns to Panama and the Cartel in Columbia.  Return flights are loaded with Columbian cocaine netting Seal $2000 per kilogram smuggled.  The amount of drugs involved eventually causes Seal to run out of banks and closet space for his green abundance. The entire story is told with more humor than drama, concentrating on Seal’s/Cruise’s smile and devil be damned style. You know Seal is man without a conscience but he is so darn likable and fun.

American Made is aptly directed by Doug Liman who keeps the focus of the movie light and airy, bordering on silly, against a background of drugs and the ensuing trail of death and ruin; and somehow it all works. Liman last worked with Cruise in the fantastic and critical acclaimed 2014 sci-fi flick: Live Die Repeat: The Edge of Tomorrow.  A little known, but talented writer, Gary Spinelli wrote the screenplay for this movie and auctioned it off to Universal for a cool million back in 2014. At that time Ron Howard was pegged to direct the movie. Filming started around May 2015 and continued off and on until January 2017.

This film is blithely marketed as a true story, a biography. As with all things Hollywood, that statement stretches reality to the breaking point. Barry Seal was a pilot for TWA and he was a drug smuggler; that part is true, after which the rest of the story gets the Hollywood treatment where the truth is pitted against fiction; may the highest gross potential wins.  The CIA part of the story may or may not have happened but the official line is it did not or at least not till much later in time.  Seal was busted for drug smuggling and money laundering and was facing serious time in the pen. He cut a deal with the DEA to help bring down the Columbian Cartels in exchanged for a lighter sentence.  At this point it appears the CIA, in conjunction with the DEA, stepped in to also gather information on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.  Subsequently, Seal, at an airport in Nicaragua, took photos of Pablo Escobar, Ochoa, plus a Sandinista government official, Federico Vaughan, directing the loading of cocaine onto a DEA aircraft.  These pictures leaked out to the general public, after which Escobar placed a bounty on Seal’s life; supposedly $1,000,000 for capture and return to Columbia or $500,000 for his death. In early 1986 Seal was assassinated by Escobar’s hit men in front of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana Salvation Army facility.

Seal’s American Made life is a comedy.  Seal’s real life was a tragedy. Aristotle said in the 4th century BC, that art imitates life, mimesis, whereas Oscar Wilde in 1889 said the life imitates art, anti-mimesis. Here art imitates life, but comedy polled better than tragedy: money wins. Ok, that might be a bit heavy.  It’s a good movie so kick your feet up and pass the popcorn.

 

With a Little Help from My Mum

Kaleidoscope (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: NA  Runtime: 99-100 minutes

Genre:  Drama-Mystery-Suspense-ThrillerM Kaleidoscope 2017

els – 7.0/10

IMDb – 6.0/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.4/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – NA/5

Metacritic Metascore – 52/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Rupert Jones

Written by:   Rupert Jones

Music by:  Mike Prestwood Smith

Cast:   Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews

Film Locations:   London, England

Budget:   NA–Low Budget Indie Film

Worldwide Box Office:  $6,906 (Limited Release)

Carl (Jones) is a lonely man. Just out of prison, for what is never stated, he attempts a lonely hearts, social network consummated, date for the first time in 15 years. The date appears to be just what Carl needs to jump-start his life and leave his ill-defined past behind; until his mother (Reid) calls.  The call releases his past in waves of psychological, matriarchal malevolence, torturing his mind with fits of murderous rage and metaphysical straight-jackets. His date goes downhill and his mother shows up at his flat to complete the twisted anguish taking place in Carl’s mind.

Kaleidoscope was written and directed by Rupert Jones, a sophomoric directorial effort in the feature film category, blood-tied to a clan of English stage and movie actors; father Freddy Jones, mother Jessie Heslewood, and brothers Toby and Casper Jones. His main efforts prior to this film were in the realm of shorts and music videos, including directing: Most Likely You Will Go Your Way  by Bob Dylan. Jones weaves a captivating psychological thriller that holds you, rivets you, to Carl’s revolving kaleidoscope of shifting past memories and misty glimpses of the present. A surprisingly great movie from one with such an unsuspecting thin cinematic resume.

Toby Jones and Anne Reid play Kaleidoscope precisely as needed: a dysfunctional family, and play it as if it were their reality. Their whole body, visual as well as vocal, creates a truly intricate and color-saturated story that the sparse dialogue only begins to animate into a meaningful coherence. Toby’s silent looks speak volumes while Reid’s wrinkles and loose skin invoke not sympathy, but a cold certainty that she should be tossed from a fast train or a high balcony.

This is a remarkable movie; psychotic portraits vividly drawn on a Kandinsky canvas, divorced from any obvious visual realities. The visuals keep you engaged but the reality is hidden; past is prologue, present is interesting, if not terrifying. A low-budget masterpiece; a great story with great direction and acting.

Do it the Hard Way–Do it Yourself

Hollow in the Land (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: NA  Runtime: 92-99 minutesM Hollow 2017

Genre:  Drama-Mystery-Thriller

els – 5.0/10

IMDb – 5.6/10

Amazon – 3.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 4.1/5

Metacritic Metascore – 54/100

Metacritic User Score – NA/10

Directed by:  Scooter Corkle

Written by:  Scooter Corkle

Music by:  NA

Cast:  Dianna Agron, Rachelle Lefevre, Shawn Ashmore

Film Locations:   Castlegar, Canada

Budget:   NA–Low Budget Indie Film

Worldwide Box Office:  NA

Alison Miller (Dianna Agron), a young woman, bereft of parents; mother dead, father serving time for drunken vehicular homicide, is desperately trying to keep her immature and obnoxious brother out of jail until he turns 18, all the while, working at a factory owned by the family of the young boy killed by her father. On the one-year anniversary of Alison’s father’s crime, her brother disappears after his girlfriend’s father is murdered. Alison begins trying to unravel mystery of her brothers whereabouts and the events that led to his suspicious disappearance.

Hollow in the Land was filmed in the small logging and mining community of Castlegar, British Columbia, home town to this movie’s director and writer: Scooter Corkle. The town is nestled in the valley at the confluence of the Columbia and Kootenay Rivers with the picturesque Selkirk Mountains towering above; sometimes referred to as a mountain hollow; pronounced holler if you are from West Virginia. Hollow also signifies the meaningless and pointless existence of the Millers, living as outcasts among small town hypocrites and cheats.

As a low-budget film, everything works except the story. It pulls all the right emotional strings, but intellectually it’s a beginning to end bust.  You watch the movie and just keep repeating to yourself: why, why does Alison do what she does?  A little thought shows a better way, a simpler plot with the same outcome, without traipsing down alleys and back roads, leading to the same place as the freeway. The movie starts out very slow with digressions that are simply insane and after 15 minutes of that goop, your mind tells you to get up and walk away.  If you stay it gets a little better and a little quicker, but just a little.

Some scenes should have been left on the cutting room floor, including a clip of Alison’s brother and his girlfriend swapping saliva, unconvincingly, for what feels like 20 excoriating minutes. A glancing blow of that scene would have been sufficient. The girl, moments after her father is murdered, is shown in an angelic, peaceful sleeping pose. Ain’t life wonderful? A few moments later the curtain opens, literally, to Alison and the girl’s mother, ex-wife of the murdered man, having a touching shower scene together. Made sense to someone.  Additionally, there are scenes and script that cause brain cells to scream out in anguish. Alison working for the family that lost their son due to the actions of her father. Why, why, why?  Alison playing amateur sleuth and never sharing anything with the police even though one of her few friends is a deputy.  Why, is never explained.

This is a flip of a coin movie. Heads watch it, tails, trim your toenails. As a mystery it is pretty good.  The process to the solution of the mystery is incoherent and the trips down the back roads are maddening.  Hollow may actually mean that the movie is insignificant and meaningless.

 

Beyond Comic

Beyond Skyline (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 105-106 minutes

Genre:  Action-Adventure-Drama-Fantasy-Horror-Science Fiction-ThrillerM Skyline 2017

els – 4.5/10

IMDb – 5.4/10

Amazon – 3.3/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 5.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.2/5

Metacritic Metascore – 46/100

Metacritic User Score – 5.6/10

Directed by:  Liam O’Donnell

Written by:  Liam O’Donnell

Music by:  Nathan Whitehead

Cast:  Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston

Film Locations:   Toronto, Canada; Batam and Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Los Angeles and Marina Del Rey, US

Budget:   ~$15,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  ~$1,000,000

Mark (Grillo), a washed up LA cop picks up his troublesome and busted son from the police department and is taking him back home when the aliens, or is it alien, attack the city and suck everyone up into their spaceship via a blue light beaming down, and vacuuming up, from the crowded streets below.  The LA folks who are pulled into the spaceship have their brains removed, inserted into cyborg-like machines, and are reprogrammed to do the bidding of the alien(s), all with a blue twinkle in their eyes.  Mark and his son are eventually captured and brought into the craft but he escapes the brain transference process while his son doesn’t. Mark befriends another cyborg that doesn’t like the alien(s) and together they cause the spacecraft to crash into the drug infested jungles of Laos, actually Indonesia, where they seem to have been totally forgotten by the rest of humanity. At this point Mark joins forces with Laotian drug smugglers and they proceed to battle the alien(s) and cyborgs Kung Fu style, setting the stage for Skyline 3.

Beyond Skyline is an ambitious special effects movie hamstrung with a lousy script and even worse direction; both supplied by Liam O’Donnell. This is O’Donnell’s first shot at directing with the only positive being that he has to improve in his next movie, if there is one. The acting and the special effects are all serviceable but the story just loses all control of reality and veers off into an action soaked craze masquerading as a plot. Each scene seems designed to end the confusion from the previous scene, but fails, and you are left with just witnessing some fairly decent action but not really knowing why. In the end you would be forgiven to think that this flick was a comedy, non-stop slapstick if you will, except it wasn’t funny. Blue lights bad, red lights good.  Red light bombs turn blue lights red. In Skyline 3 we will likely to be informed what green lights are all about. Brains for cyborgs, tots for toys; good grief.  Keep your popcorn in the kernel and move along; nothing to see here.

 

Vengeance is Bad Until it is Good

American Assassin  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 111-112 minutesM Assassin 2017

Genre:  Action-Spy-Thriller

els – 5.5/10

IMDb – 6.2/10

Amazon – 3.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 4.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.6/5

Metacritic Metascore – 45/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.0/10

Directed by:  Michael Cuesta

Written by:  Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

Music by:  Steven Price

Cast:  Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan

Film Locations:   Birmingham and London, England; Rome, Italy; Valletta, Malta; Phuket, Thailand

Budget:   ~$33,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $66,000,000+

Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) lost his fiancé, minutes after proposing to her, to mass murdering, middle-eastern terrorists on the beaches of Spain (actually shot in Phuket). Rapp vows revenge for her death and begins training himself to go after and kill all the terrorists involved.  The CIA notices him and monitors his progress, eventually deciding to bring him into the fold and continue his training under the former SEAL, Stan Hurley (Keaton). The plot begins to thicken as Rapp and Hurley investigate a series of terrorist attacks that eventually lead to the realization that middle-eastern elements are trying to acquire a nuclear device and use it to start a world war.

The movie is based on Vince Flynn’s 1994 novel of the same name with plans for making the movie beginning back in 2012, finally leading to actual filming in 2016. The movie is obviously intended as the opening shot for a long running spy-thriller franchise.  It appears that the choice of O’Brien to fill the lead as a 20 something young adult is meant to demonstrate, with time, his progression into a personage with a Bourne or Bond countenance in the subsequent movies. Hopefully it will work.

The professional class of critics have panned this flick with no mercy. The major dig being that the story is stale and has been told a million times before, and usually better. On the other hand the movie paying public likes this movie for the action and the mindless entertainment that it is; nothing more. The filming and cinematography are beautiful with competent acting all around. Yes, the story could have used some sprucing  up, mainly around the convoluted messaging on the morality of revenge, but I’ll reserve judgement until after the sophomore release.  Feet up and pass the popcorn.

Friendship and Vengeance

The Ballad of Lefty Brown  (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2017)  Rated: R  Runtime: 111 minutesM Lefty 2017

Genre: Action-Drama-Mystery-Thriller-Western

els – 7.5/10

IMDb – 6.3/10

Amazon – 4.0/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 6.2/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.6/5

Metacritic Metascore – 63/100

Metacritic User Score – 7.5/10

Directed by: Jared Moshe

Written by: Jared Moshe

Music by: H. Scott Salinas

Cast: Bill Pullman, Peter Fonda, Joe Anderson, Tommy Flanagan

Film Locations:  Montana–cities of: Bannack, Virginia City, Nevada City and Harrison

Budget:  NA

Lefty Brown (Pullman), a hapless cowboy and life long partner and friend to his boss, the newly elected senator from Montana, Edward Johnson (Fonda), are riding the grassy hills, searching for horse thieves, when they are bushwhacked by a group of rascally devils in which Johnson is killed and Lefty is knocked silly but survives. As Lefty regains his senses, what little he ever had, he vows vengeance on the killers of his companion of 40 years. Thus begins the Lefty’s quest across the desolate and open lands of Montana, hunting for the killers of his one true friend; a hunt that tests his fortitude, his courage, and his loyalty, but it is the hunt for the truth that ultimately defines his essence as a man.

In 1955 Gunsmoke premiered on CBS television and ran for 20 years and 635 episodes, during which time it became quintessence of the western genre and likely, the most beloved. The core, twin pillars of the show included the just and honorable, but isolated, Marshall Dillon (James Arness) and his trusty but ornery sidekick: Fetus (Ken Curtis). The Ballad of Lefty Brown is the story of Fetus with Chester’s (Dennis Weaver) limp thrown in for good measure, out to avenge Matt’s death. Pullman plays Fetus aka Lefty to absolute perfection.  It is one of the greatest pieces of acting that I have seen in years. I hope they reserve one of the best actor awards for him. His acting is worth the price of admission, but watch it also for the supporting acting, the fervent story and the grand panoramic cinematography.

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